NEW DELHI – India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will mark its first anniversary in office this month. While it is too early to assess its overall performance, the overwhelming sentiment across India so far is one of disappointment.
The BJP rode to power on a wave of expectations after a decade in opposition to the United Progressive Alliance government, led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of the Congress party. (Full disclosure: I was a member of that government.) Support for the BJP was so strong, in fact, that the party became the first in 30 years to win a majority in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of India’s parliament).
Early enthusiasm for the BJP government was based on the perceived contrast with its predecessor. Here, at last, was a strong single-party government led by a decisive “man of action,” rather than a fractious coalition led by a reticent octogenarian, who was often unfairly caricatured as uncertain and vacillating.
Modi was marketed to voters through a clever (and lavishly financed) campaign that portrayed him as the business-savvy leader who had transformed the state of Gujarat into a lodestar of development – and who would do the same for the country as a whole. Attracting young people with the promise of jobs, and older voters with the prospect of reform and growth, Modi won a mandate that stunned the country’s pollsters. Congress, meanwhile, recorded its worst-ever performance.